Prosecutors on Friday dropped a hindering evidence charge against the grandfather of a boy convicted in a double murder.
Randy Staton, 59, was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, a Class B felony, after his grandson and three other teenagers were arrested on suspicion of killing Robert and Patricia Cogdell — his grandson’s legal guardians.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joan Shipley signed an order dropping the charge Friday.
Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland said there was not enough evidence against Staton to pursue charges and therefore, the hindering charge was dismissed.
"As prosecuting attorneys, we are charged with seeking justice in criminal cases, not winning at all costs," he said. "We make filing decisions based on evidence, which in many cases includes witness testimony."
Defense Attorney Omar Greene said he wanted to thank Shipley and Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Hugh Finkelstein for performing "their ethical duty to seek justice."
"They listened to us," he said. "Oftentimes, [prosecutors] will get their minds made up but they listened and took another look at it. They did what prosecutors were supposed to do — they’re supposed to seek justice."
Hiland said that after revisiting information against Staton, the proper move was to dismiss charges.
"If in the course of preparing for trial, we lose confidence in the veracity of that testimony and no longer have an abiding conviction that the initial information provided is true, it is incumbent for us to revisit the decision to insure that a just result will be reached," he said. "That’s exactly what happened with this particular case against Mr. Staton."
Staton’s daughter, Michelle, entered a plea deal on March 7 for hindering apprehension or prosecution in the Cogdells’ deaths.
Michelle, 37, was charged after she called Randy from the county jail and asked him to burn the clothes her son was wearing the night he and three other teens allegedly murdered the Cogdells.
Randy’s 15-year-old grandson, Justin, pleaded guilty May 10 to first-degree murder and other charges as part of a negotiated plea deal for the 2015 slayings of his legal guardians.
Capital murder charges against Justin were lowered to first-degree murder as part of a plea deal that requires him to truthfully testify against Hunter Drexler, 19 — the oldest of the four teens accused in the Cogdells’ deaths.
Justin was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He is currently being held in the Division of Youth Services. He will be transferred to the Arkansas Department of Corrections when he turns 16 in November.
Connor Atchley, 18, was sentenced to 25 years in prison with a 15-year suspended imposition.
Drexler, who was 17 when the Cogdells were murdered, has a four-day juvenile transfer hearing set to begin Oct. 18.
Anastasia Roberts, 18, also has a juvenile transfer hearing. Her initial transfer hearing, which was scheduled for Thursday, but was moved to Nov. 7.
(Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)